As the Brisbane and Royal Ascot carnivals are now behind us, attention is now firmly focused on the Melbourne Spring Carnival. At the European end, decisions will be required within the next 8 weeks on which horses will travel to Melbourne. In Australia, we anxiously await the return of our higher rated horses and the progression of those on lower marks.
With the 2017-18 racing season having been OTI’s best in its 20-year history and with many quality acquisitions made in the past 12 months, our co-owners have a great deal of excitement in store for the upcoming carnival. Lead up carnivals in Deauville, France, York and Goodwood in Europe, as well as Sydney earlier in the spring, will hopefully whet their appetite for success in Melbourne even more.
The good run by Chelkar (Willie Mullins) at Royal Ascot in a 4000m handicap left connections in little doubt that Melbourne Cup success is a real possibility. With this lightly raced 5yo needing to improve his rating to gain a start in the Melbourne Cup, the Ebor in late August has been set as a target. A similar program has also been set for Dark Pearl (Ed Walker). After going down by a short head in his last start over 2800m, this strong 4yo will continue to work his way through the grades to justify his ticket south.
Andre Fabre has made no secret that Casterton will target the key staying races in Deauville on his way to Melbourne. Already a stakes winner, this 4yo son of Fastnet Rock is well placed to feature in the Prix Kergorlay before coming to Melbourne. Fabre’s other promising colt for OTI and partners is King of Camelot. His owners can look towards some of he top 3yo staying races in Europe during the remainder of this season. Downdraft (Joseph O’Brien) has similar objectives following a good run at Royal Ascot. However, both Downdraft and King of Camelot are likely to stay in Europe for another year.
High Bridge (Chris Waller) and Penshurst (Matt Smith), both recent arrivals to Australia, are yet to start here. While the former, a 7yo son of Monsun, will head towards the top staying handicaps, Penshurst, a 4yo, will aim at working his way through his classes. Three-year olds, Artarmon (Michael Bell), Petruchio (Ed Walker), Fairlight and Harbour View (both with Luca Cumani) are also candidates to possibly join the main quarantine shipments this spring.
When the above are blended with locals like Tom Melbourne and Araaja (Chris Waller), Vin de Dance (Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman), Kellstorm, Tall Ship, Master Zephyr, Nights Watch, Gallic Chieftain, Romancer and Co. (Darren Weir), Lord Fandango and So Far Sokool (Archie Alexander), Plymouth Road (Matt Smith), Aloisia and Pemberley (Ciaron Maher), Fastnet Tempest (David Hayes) and Grey Lion (Matt Cumani), most feature spring races are covered with competitive horses. Unfortunately, our star of this season, Gailo Chop, will be out of action. Hopefully we’ll see him return in the autumn.
Then there are the 3yo colts and fillies. Again, this year we should be well represented in the Guineas, Derby and Oaks. It would be a dream for our owners who were successful in the Thousand Guineas, the Moonee Valley Vase and the NZ Derby last year, to repeat such successes, but we’ll have more about that later.